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In The Six Pillars of Self-Esteem, Nathaniel Branden presents the culminating achievement of a lifetime of clinical practice and research. File formats: ePub, PDF, Kindle, Audiobook, mobi, ZIP. Download >> The Six Pillars of Self-Esteem: The Definitive Work on Self-Esteem by the Leading Pioneer. (Epub Kindle) Six Pillars of Self-Esteem: The Definitive Work on Self-Esteem by the Leading Pioneer in the Field (ebook online) For download.
The turbulence of our times demands strong selves with a clear sense of identity, competence, and worth. With a breakdown of cultural consensus, an absence of worthy role models, little in the public arena to inspire our allegiance, and disorientingly rapid change a permanent feature of our lives; with all that it is a dangerous moment in history not to know who we are, or not to trust ourselves. The stability we cannot find in the world, we must create within our own persons. To face life with low self-esteem is to be at a severe disadvantage. These considerations are part of my motivation in writing this program, which in essence, consists of my answers to four questions:. Self-esteem is shaped by both internal, and external factors.
We all know people who are brilliantly conscious in the area of work and are catastrophes of unconsciousness in their personal relationships. The ways we know what area of our life needs more awareness. We look at the area of our life that is working least satisfactorily.
We notice where the pains and frustrations are. We observe where we feel least effective. If we are willing to be honest, this is not a difficult task. Once you identify the areas in your life where you are at your most conscious, and also the areas where you are least conscious, the next step is to reflect on what seems to be difficult about staying in high-level mental focus in the troublesome areas. You might find it stimulating to consider the following questions:.
Without self-acceptance, self-esteem is impossible. In fact, it is so intimately bound up with self-esteem that one some times sees the two ideas confused. Yet they are different in meaning, and each needs to be understood in its own right. Whereas self-esteem is something we experience , self-acceptance is something we do. To be self-accepting, is to be on my own side -- to be for myself. In the most fundamental sense, self-acceptance refers to an orientation of self-value and self-commitment that derives from the fact that I am alive and conscious.
As such, it is more primitive than self-esteem. It is a pre-rational, pre-moral act of self-affirmation, it is a kind of natural egoism that is the birthright of every human being.
Some people are self-rejecting at so deep a level that no growth work can even begin until and unless this problem is addressed. If it is not, no treatment will hold, no new learning will be properly integrated, no significant advances can be made. An attitude of basic self-acceptance entails the declaration "I choose to value myself, to treat myself with respect, to stand up for my right to exist.
It can lie sleeping and then suddenly awake. It can fight for our life, even when we are filled with despair. When we are on the brink of suicide, it can make us pick up the telephone and call for help. From the depths of anxiety or depression, it can lead us to the office of a psychotherapist. After we have endured years of abuse and humiliation, it can fling us finally into shouting "No'" When all we want to do is lie down and die, it can impel us to keep moving.
It is the voice of the life force. It is "selfishness," in the noblest meaning of that word. If it goes silent, self-esteem is the first casualty. Self-acceptance entails our willingness to experience -- without denial or evasion -- that we think what we think, feel what we feel, desire what we desire, have done what we have done, and are what we are. It is our willingness to experience rather than to disown whatever may be the facts of our being at a particular moment.
The willingness to experience and accept our feelings carries no implication that emotions are to have the last word on what we do.
I may not be in the mood to work today; I can acknowledge my feelings, experience them, accept them -- and then go to work.
I will work with a clearer mind because I have not begun the day with self-deception. Often,when we fully experience and accept negative feelings, we are able to let go of them; they have been allowed to have their say and they relinquish center stage. Self-acceptance is the willingness to say of any emotion or behavior, "This is an expression of me, not necessarily an expression I like or admire, but an expression of me nonetheless, at least at the time it occurred.
If I am thinking these disturbing thoughts, I am thinking them; I accept the full reality of my experience. If I am feeling pain or anger or fear or inconvenient lust, I am feeling it -- what is true, is true -- I do not rationalise, deny, or attempt to explain away.
I am feeling what I am feeling and I accept the reality of my experience. If I have taken actions of which I am later ashamed, the fact remains that I have taken them -- I do not twist my brain to make facts disappear. I am willing to stand still in the presence of what I know to be true.
What is, is. To "accept" is more than simply to "acknowledge" or "admit. I need to open myself to and fully experience unwanted emotions, not just perfunctorily recognise them. Accepting does not necessarily mean liking, enjoying or condoning.
I can accept what is, and be determined to evolve from there. It is not acceptance but denial that leaves me stuck. I cannot be truly for myself -- I cannot build self-esteem -- if I cannot accept myself. Suppose I have done something that I regret, or of which I am ashamed, and for which I reproach myself.
Self-acceptance does not deny reality, does not argue that what is wrong is really all right, but it inquires into the context in which the action was taken.
It wants to understand the why. It wants to know why something that is wrong or inappropriate felt desirable or appropriate or even necessary at the time. We do not understand another human being when we know only that what he or she did is wrong, unkind, destructive, or whatever. We need to know the internal considerations that prompted the behavior. There is always some context in which the most offensive actions can have their own kind of sense.
This does not mean they are justified, only that they can be understandable. I can condemn some action I have taken and still have compassionate interest in the motives that prompted it.
I can still be a friend to myself. This has nothing to do with alibiing, rationalising, or avoiding responsibility. A good friend might say to me, "This was unworthy of you. Now tell me, What made it feel like a good idea, or at least a defensible one? This too, is what I can say to myself.
Just as when we need to reproach or correct others, we should wish to do so in ways that do not damage self-esteem -- so we should bring this same benevolence to ourselves. This is the virtue of self-acceptance.
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By way of introducing clients to the idea of self-acceptance, I often like to begin with a simple exercise. It can offer a profound learning experience. Stand in front of a full-length mirror and look at your face and body.
Notice your feelings as you do so. I am asking you to focus not on your clothes or your makeup but on you. Notice if this is difficult or makes you uncomfortable. It is good to do this exercise naked. You will probably like some parts of what you see more than others. If you are like most people, you will find some parts difficult to look at for long because they agitate or displease you.
In your eyes there may be a pain you do not want to confront. Perhaps you are too fat or too thin. Perhaps there is some aspect of your body you so dislike that you can hardly bear to keep looking at it. Perhaps you see signs of age and cannot bear to stay connected with the thoughts and emotions these signs evoke. So the impulse is to escape, to flee from awareness, to reject, deny, disown aspects of your self. Stay focused on your image in the mirror a few moments longer, and say to yourself, "Whatever my defects or imperfections, I accept myself unreservedly and completely.
Allow yourself to experience fully the meaning of your words. You may find yourself protesting, "But I don't like certain things about my body, so how can I accept them unreservedly and completely? It means experiencing, without denial or avoidance, that a fact is a fact.
In this case, it means accepting that the face and body in the mirror are your face and body and that they are what they are. Even though you may not like or enjoy everything you see when you look in the mirror, you are still able to say, "Right now, that's me.
And I don't deny the fact. I accept it. When clients commit to do this exercise for two minutes every morning and again every night for two weeks, they soon begin to experience the relationship between self-acceptance and self-esteem. That relationship is: How can self-esteem not suffer, if we are in a rejecting relationship to our own physical being? Is it realistic to imagine we can love ourselves while despising what we see in the mirror.
Those who do this exercise make another important discovery. Not only do they enter a more harmonious relationship with themselves, not only do they begin to grow in self-efficacy and self-respect, but if aspects of the self they do not like are within their power to change, they are more motivated to make the changes, once they have accepted the facts as they are now. We are not moved to change those things whose reality we deny. What about those things we cannot change? When we accept them we grow stronger and more centered; when we curse and protest them, we disempower ourselves.
Suppose our negative reaction to some experience is so overwhelming that we feel we cannot practice self-acceptance with regard to it? Let us say, the feeling, thought, or memory is so distressing and agitating that acceptance feels out of the question. We feel powerless not to block and contract.
The solution is not to try to resist our resistance. It is not useful to try to block a block. Instead, we need to do something more artful. If we cannot accept a feeling or a thought ora memory , we should accept our resistance. In other words, start by accepting where we are. Be present to the now and experience it fully. If we stay with the resistance at a conscious level, it will usually begin to dissolve. When we fight a block it grows stronger.
When we acknowledge, experience, and accept it, it begins to melt because it's continued existence requires opposition.
Sometimes in therapy, when a person has difficulty accepting a feeling, I will ask if he or she is willing to accept the fact of refusing to accept the feeling. I asked this once of a client who was a clergyman and who had great difficulty in owning or experiencing his anger; just the same, he was a very angry man.
My request disoriented him. When I answered, "That's right," he thundered, "I refuse to accept my anger and I refuse to accept my refusal! We've got to begin somewhere. Let's begin there. I asked him to face the group and say "I'm angry" over and over again. Soon he was saying it very angrily indeed.
Then I had him say "I refuse to accept my anger," which he shouted with escalating vigor. Then I had him say "I refuse to accept my refusal to accept my anger," which he plunged into ferociously. Then I had him say "But I am willing to accept my refusal to accept my refusal," and he kept repeating it until he broke down and joined in the laughter of the group. And if you can't accept the resistance, accept your resistance to accepting the resistance.
Eventually you'll arrive at a point you can accept. Then you can move forward from there Both accepting and disowning are implemented through a combination of mental and physical processes. We typically encounter two fallacious assumptions when people have difficulty with the idea of self-acceptance. One is the belief that if we accept who and what we are, we must approve of everything about us.
The other is the belief that if we accept who and what we are, we are indifferent to change or improvement. But of course the question is: If we cannot accept what is, where will we find the motivation to improve? If I deny and disown what is, how will I be inspired to grow?
There is a paradox here: Acceptance of what is, is the precondition of change. And denial of what is leaves me stuck in it. Each morning, write 6 to 10 endings for the following sentence stems as rapidly as possible again, do not worry if your endings are literally true, make sense or are profound:.
That's all. In the evening, do 6 to 10 endings each for the following stems:. Do this exercise every day, Monday through Friday. On the weekend, read over what you have written, and then write 6 to 10 endings for this stem:. Anything we have the possibility of experiencing, we have the possibility of disowning, either immediately or later, in memory. As the philosopher Nietzsche wrote: Eventually memory yields. I can rebel against my memories, thoughts, emotions, actions.
I can reject rather than accept virtually any aspect of my experience. I can refuse to accept my sensuality. I can refuse to accept my spirituality.
I can disown my sorrow; I can disown my joy.
The Six Pillars Of Self Esteem
I can repress the memory of actions of which I am ashamed; I can repress the memory of actions of which I am proud. I can deny my ignorance; I can deny my intelligence. I can refuse to accept my limitations; I can refuse to accept my potentials.
I can conceal my weaknesses; I can conceal my strengths. I can deny my feelings of self-hatred; I can deny my feelings of self-love. I can disown my body; I can disown my mind. We can be as frightened of our assets as of our shortcomings -- as frightened of our genius, ambition, excitement, or beauty as we are of our emptiness, passivity, depression, or unattractiveness. If our liabilities pose the problem of inadequacy, our assets pose the challenge of responsibility.
The greatest crime we commit against ourselves is not that we may deny and disown our shortcomings but that we deny and disown our greatness-because it frightens us. If a fully realised self-acceptance does not evade the worst within us, neither does it evade the best. To feel competent to live and worthy of happiness, I need to experience a sense of control over my existence. This requires that I be willing to take responsibility for my actions and the attainment of my goals.
This means that I take responsibility for my life and well-being. Self-responsibility is essential to self-esteem, and it is also a reflection or manifestation of self-esteem. The relationship between self-esteem, and it's pillars is always reciprocal: The practices that generate self-esteem are also natural expressions and consequences of self-esteem. Once when I was lecturing to a group of psychotherapists on the six pillars of self-esteem, one of them asked me, "Why do you put your emphasis on what the individual must do to grow in self-esteem?
Isn't the source of self-esteem the fact that we are children of God? Whether one believes in a God, and whether one believes we are God's children, is irrelevant to the issue of what self-esteem requires. In this respect, then, we are all equal. Does it follow that everyone is or should be equal in self-esteem, regardless of whether anyone lives consciously or unconsciously, responsibly or irresponsibly, honestly or dishonestly?
Earlier in this book we saw that this is impossible. There is no way for our mind to avoid registering the choices we make in the way we operate and no way for our sense of self to remain unaffected.
If we are children of God, the questions remain: What are we going to do about it? What are we going to make of it? Will we honor our gifts or betray them?
If we betray ourselves and our powers, if we live mindlessly, purposelessly, and without integrity, can we buy our way out,can we acquire self-esteem, by claiming to be God's relatives?
Do we imagine we can thus relieve ourselves of personal responsibility? Whatever role a belief in God may play in our lives, surely it is not to justify a default on consciousness, responsibility, and integrity. In stressing that we need to take responsibility for our life and happiness, I am not suggesting that a person never suffers through accident or through the fault of others, or that a person is responsible for everything that may happen to him or her.
I do not support the grandiose notion that "I am responsible for every aspect of my existence and everything that befalls me. If I hold myself responsible for matters beyond my control, I put my self-esteem in jeopardy, since inevitably I will fail my expectations. If I deny responsibility for matters that are within my control, again I jeopardise my self-esteem. I need to know the difference between that which is up to me and that which is not. The only consciousness over which I have volitional control is my own.
It is easy enough in work situations to observe the difference between those who practice self-responsibility and those who do not. Self-responsibility shows up as an active orientation to work and to life rather than a passive one.
If there is a problem, men and women who are self-responsible ask, "What can I do about it? What avenues of action are possible to me? Where did I miscalculate? How can I correct the situation? They are typically solution oriented. In every organisation we encounter both types: It is only by grace of the second type that organisations are able to operate effectively.
In the overall conduct of my life, I would say that I have always operated at a fairly high level of self-responsibility. I did not look to others to provide for my needs or wants. But I can think of a time when I failed my own principles rather badly, with painful results. In my twenties I formed an intense relationship with novelist-philosopher Ayn Rand. Over the course of eighteen years, our relationship passed through almost every form imaginable: The story of this relationship is the dramatic centerpiece of Judgment Day.
In the beginning and for some years, the relationship was nurturing, inspiring, valuable in many ways; I learned and grew enormously. But eventually it became constricting, toxic, destructive-a barrier to my further intellectual and psychological development.
I did not take the initiative and propose that our relationship be redefined and reconstituted on a different basis. I told myself I did not want to cause pain.
I waited for her to see what I saw. I looked to her rationality and wisdom to reach the decision that would be right for both of us. In effect, I was relating to an abstraction, the author of The Fountainhead and Atlas Shrugged , rather than to the concrete woman in front of me. I did not confront the fact that her agenda was very different from mine and that she was totally absorbed in her own needs. I delayed facing the fact that nothing would change unless I made it change.
And because I delayed, I caused suffering and humiliation to us both.
I avoided a responsibility that was mine to take. No matter what explanations I gave myself, there was no way for my self-esteem to remain unaffected. Only when I began to take the initiative did I begin the process of regaining what I had lost. We often see this pattern in marriages.
One partner sees before the other that the relationship is finished. But he or she does not want to be "the bad guy," the one to end things. So instead manipulation begins, to lead the other to make the first move. It is cruel, degrading, lacking in dignity, and hurtful to both people. It is self-demeaning and self- diminishing.
To the extent that I evade responsibility, I inflict wounds on my self-esteem. In accepting responsibility, I build self-esteem. Embracing self-responsibility not merely as a personal preference but as a philosophical principle entails one's acceptance of a profoundly important moral idea. In taking responsibility for our own existence we implicitly recognise that other human beings are not our servants and do not exist for the satisfaction of our needs.
We are not morally entitled to treat other human beings as means to our ends, just as we are not a means to theirs. In my therapy practice and my self-esteem groups, I work with a great number of sentence stems that allow clients to explore the psychology of self-responsibility.
I offer a representative sampling here. Each morning, as rapidly as possible, write 6 to 10 endings for the following sentence stems:. If you keep a journal and over time write six to ten endings for each of these incomplete sentences, not only will you learn a great deal but it will be almost impossible not to grow in the practice of self-responsibility.
The best way of working is to do the foregoing stems Monday through Friday, then do the following weekend stem:. Having worked with people for so many years with the aim of building self-esteem, I have always been on the lookout for decisive moments in psychotherapy, instances when a "click" seems to occur in the client's mind and new forward motion begins.
One of the most important of such moments is when the client grasps that no-one is coming. No-one is coming to save me. No-one is coming to make life right for me. No-one is coming to solve my problems. If I don't do something different, nothing is going to get better. Some years ago, in my group therapy room, we hung on the wall a number of sayings that I often found useful in my work.
A client made me a gift of several of these sayings done in needlepoint, each with a frame. One of these sayings was "no-one is coming".
One day a group member with a sense of humour challenged me about it: Self-assertiveness means honouring my wants needs and values, and seeking appropriate forms of their expression in reality. It's opposite is that surrender to timidity that consists of consigning myself to a perpetual underground, where everything I am lays hidden or stillborn.
To avoid confrontation with someone whose values differ from mine, or to please, placate or manipulate someone, or, simply, to "belong". Self-assertion does not mean belligerence, or inappropriate aggressiveness. It does not mean pushing to the front of the line, or knocking other people over.
It does not mean upholding my own rights by being blind or indifferent to everyone else's. It simply means the willingness to stand up for myself, to be who I am openly, to treat myself with respect in all human encounters. To practice self-assertiveness is to live authentically -- to speak and act for my inner-most convictions and feelings -- as a way of life, as a rule -- allowing for the obvious fact that there may be particular circumstances in which I may justifiably choose not to do so.
Appropriate self-assertiveness pays attention to context. The forms of self-expression appropriate when playing on the floor with a child are obviously different than at a staff meeting. In every context there will be appropriate and inappropriate forms of self-expression. Sometimes self-assertiveness is manifested through volunteering an idea or paying a compliment. Sometimes through a polite silence that signals non-agreement.
Sometimes by refusing to smile at a tasteless joke. While appropriate self-expression varies with the context -- in every situation there is a choice to be authentic or unauthentic; real or unreal. If we do not want to face this of course we will deny that we have a choice -- we will assert that we are helpless , but the choice is always there.
Note that self-assertiveness should not be confused with mindless rebelliousness. Sometimes people who are essentially dependent and fearful choose a form of assertiveness that is self-destructive. It consists of reflexively saying "No! We often see this response among teenagers -- and among adults who have never matured beyond this teenage level of consciousness. While healthy self-assertiveness requires the ability to say no, it is ultimately tested not by what we are against but by what we are for.
A life that consists only of a string of negations is a waste and a tragedy. Self-assertiveness asks that we not only oppose,what we deplore but that we live and express our values.
In this respect, it is intimately tied to the issue of integrity. To practice self-assertiveness consistently I need the conviction that my ideas and wants are important. Unfortunately, this conviction is often lacking. When we were young, many of us received signals conveying that what we thought and felt or wanted was not important. It often takes courage to honor what we want and to fight for it. For many people, self-surrender and self-sacrifice are far easier.
They do not require the integrity and responsibility that intelligent selfishness requires. As a consultant, when I am asked to work with a team that has difficulty functioning effectively on some project, I often find that one source of the dysfunction is one or more people who do not really participate, do not really put themselves into the undertaking.
Because of some feeling that they do not have the power to make a difference, they do not believe that their contribution can matter. In their passivity they became saboteurs. A project manager remarked to me, "I'd rather worry about handling some egomaniac who thinks he's the whole project than struggle with some self-doubting but talented individual whose insecurities stop him from kicking in what he's got to offer.
Without appropriate self-assertiveness, we are spectators, not participants. Healthy self-esteem asks that we leap into the arena -- that we be willing to get our hands dirty. Persons with an underdeveloped sense of identity often tell themselves, if I express myself, I may evoke disapproval. If I love and affirm myself, I may evoke resentment. If I am too happy with myself, I may evoke jealousy. If I stand out, I may be compelled to stand alone.
Such people remain frozen in the face of such possibilities -- and pay a terrible price in loss of self-esteem. When we are attempting to understand something and we hit a wall, it is an act of self-assertiveness to persevere. When we undertake to acquire new skills, absorb new knowledge, extend the reach of our mind across unfamiliar spaces -- when we commit ourselves to moving to a higher level of competence -- we are practicing self-assertiveness.
When we learn how to be in an intimate relationship without abandoning our sense of self, when we learn how to be kind without being self-sacrificing, when we learn how to cooperate with others without betraying our standards and convictions, then, we are practicing self-assertiveness. Some people stand and move as if they have no right to the space they occupy. Some speak as if their intention is that you not be able to hear them, either because they mumble or speak faintly or both.
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Some signal at the most crudely obvious level that they do not feel they have a right to exist. These people embody lack of self-assertiveness in its most extreme form.
Their poor self-esteem is obvious. In therapy, when such men and women learn to move and speak with more assurance, they invariably report a rise in self-esteem. Not all manifestations of non-self-assertiveness are obvious.
The average life is marked by thousands of unremembered silences, surrenders, capitulations, and misrepresentations of feelings and beliefs that corrode dignity and self-respect.
When we do not express ourselves, do not assert our being, do not stand up for our values in contexts where it is appropriate to do so, we inflict wounds on our sense of self. The world does not do it to us -- we do it to ourselves. Consider the example of a young man sits alone in the darkness of a movie theater, deeply inspired by the drama unfolding before him. The story touches him so deeply that tears come to his eyes.
He knows that in a week or so he will want to come back and see this film again. In the lobby he spots a friend who was at the same screening, and they greet each other.
He searches his friend's face for clues to his feelings about the movie; but the face is blank. The friend inquires, "How'd you like the picture? It touched me very deeply. His diminished self-esteem knows it. A woman is at a cocktail party where she hears someone make an ugly racial slur that causes her inwardly to cringe.
She wants to say, "I found that offensive. But she is afraid of evoking disapproval. In embarrassment she looks away and says nothing. Later, to appease her sense of uneasiness, she tells herself, "What difference does it make? The man was a fool" But her self-esteem knows what difference it makes. I have already mentioned the relationship with Ayn Rand a month before my twentieth birthday and that came to an explosive parting of the ways eighteen years later.
Among the many benefits that I received from her in the early years, one was an experience of profound visibility. I felt understood and appreciated by her to an extent that was without precedent. What made her response so important was the high esteem in which I held her; I admired her enormously.
Only gradually did I realise that she did not tolerate disagreement well. Not among intimates. She did not require full agreement among acquaintances, but with anyone who wanted to be truly close, enormous enthusiasm was expected for every deed and utterance. I did not notice the steps by which I learned to censor negative reactions to some of her behavior -- when, for example, I found her self-congratulatory remarks excessive or her lack of empathy disquieting or her pontificating unworthy of her.
I did not give her the kind of corrective feedback everyone needs from time to time. In later years, after the break, I often reflected on why I did not speak up more often.
The simple truth was, I valued her esteem too much to place it in jeopardy. I had, in effect, become addicted to it. In exchange for the intoxicating gratification of being treated as a demigod by the person I valued above all others and whose good opinion I treasured above all others, I leashed my self-assertiveness in ways that over time were damaging to my self-regard.
In the end, I learned an invaluable lesson. I learned that surrenders of this kind do not work; they merely postpone confrontations that are inevitable and necessary. I learned that the temptation to self-betrayal can sometimes be worst with those about whom we care the most. I learned that no amount of admiration for another human being can justify sacrificing one's judgment. The following sentence stems can facilitate reaching a deeper understanding of self-assertiveness.
Each morning for each stem, write 6 to 10 endings as rapidly as possible. And, as before, on the weekend, after rereading the week's stems, write 6 to 10 endings for this one:. Once again we can appreciate that the actions that support healthy self-esteem 'are also expressions of healthy self-esteem.
Self- assertiveness both supports self-esteem and is a manifestation of it. It is a mistake to look at someone who is self-assured and say, "Well, it's easy for her to be self-assertive, she has good self-esteem.
There are always times when self-assertiveness calls on our courage. I have a friend in his late sixties who is one of the most brilliant and sought-after business speakers in the country. A few years ago he reconnected with a woman he had known and loved many years earlier, with whom he had been out of touch for three decades.
She, too, was now in her sixties. They fell passionately in love. Telling me about it one evening at dinner, my friend had never looked happier. It was wonderful to be with him and to see the look of rapture on his face. Thinking, perhaps, of the two divorces in his past, he said, wistfully and urgently, "God, I hope I handle things right this time.
I want this relationship to succeed so much. I wish, I mean I want -- I hope -- you know, that I don't screw up. I really want us to succeed with this, and I wish --' You'd be all over him in a minute saying, 'What is this hope stuff?
What do you mean, you wish? To live without purpose is to live at the mercy of chance -- the chance event, the chance phone call, the chance encounter -- because we have no standard by which to judge what is or is not worth doing. Outside forces bounce us along, like a cork floating on water, with no initiative of our own to set a specific course. Our orientation to life is reactive rather than proactive.
We are drifters. To live purposefully is to use our powers for the attainment of goals we have selected: It is our goals that lead us forward, that call on the exercise of our faculties, that energise our existence. To live purposefully is, among other things, to live productively, which is a necessity of making ourselves competent to life. Productivity is the act of supporting our existence by translating our thoughts into reality, of setting our goals and working for their achievement, of bringing knowledge, goods, or services into existence.
Self-responsible men and women do not pass to others the burden of supporting their existence. It is not the degree of a person's productive ability that matters here but the person's choice to exercise such ability as he or she possesses. Nor is it the kind of work selected that is important, provided the work is not intrinsically antilife, but whether a person seeks work that offers an outlet for his or her intelligence, if the opportunity to do so exists.
The purposes that move us need to be specific if they are to be realised. I cannot organise my behavior optimally if my goal is merely "to do my best. My goal needs to be precisely defined, for example: With such specificity, I am able to monitor my progress, compare intentions with results, modify my strategy or my tactics in response to new information, and be accountable for the results I produce. To live purposefully is to be concerned with these questions: What am I trying to achieve?
How am I trying to achieve it? Why do I think these means are appropriate? Does the feedback from the environment convey that I am succeeding or failing? Is there new information that I need to consider?
Do I need to make adjustments in my course, or in my strategy, or in my practices? Do my goals and purposes need to be rethought? Thus, to live purposefully means to live at a high level of consciousness. It is easier for people to understand these ideas as applied to work than to personal relationships. That may be why more people make a success of their work life than of their marriages.
Everyone knows it is not enough to say "I love my work. Otherwise, the business moves toward non-existence. In intimate relationships, however, it is easy to imagine that "love" is enough, that happiness will just come, and if it doesn't, this means we are wrong for each other. People rarely ask themselves, "If my goal is to have a successful relationship, what must I do?
What actions are needed to create and sustain trust, intimacy, continuing self-disclosure, excitement, growth? Purposes unrelated to a plan of action do not get realised. They exist only as frustrated yearnings.
Or more precisely -- as daydreams. Daydreams do not produce the experience of efficacy. To live purposefully and productively requires that we cultivate within ourselves a capacity for self-discipline. Self-discipline is the ability to organise our behavior over time in the service of specific tasks.
No-one who is without the capacity for self-discipline can feel competent to cope with the challenges of life. Self-discipline requires the ability to defer immediate gratification in the service of a remote goal. This is the ability to think, plan, and live long-range. Neither an individual nor a business can function effectively, let alone flourish, in the absence of this practice. One of the challenges of effective parenthood or effective teaching is to communicate a respect for the present that does not disregard the future, and a respect for the future that does not disregard the present.
To master this balance is a challenge to all of us. It is essential if we are to enjoy the sense of being in control of our existence.
A purposeful, self-disciplined life does not mean a life without time or space for rest, relaxation, recreation, random or even frivolous activity. It merely means that such activities are chosen consciously, with the knowledge that it is safe and appropriate to engage in them. And in any event, the temporary abandonment of purpose also serves a purpose, whether consciously intended or not: But, if there is anything we know, it is that life is impossible without "goal fulfillment" -- impossible on every level of evolution, from the amoeba to the human being.
It is neither "a tragic existential fact" nor a "Western myth" but rather the simple nature of life. The alternative to "goal fulfillment" is passivity and aimlessness.
Is it a tragedy that such a state does not yield a joy equal to the joys of achievement? Incidentally, let us remember that "goal fulfillment" is not confined to "worldly" goals.
A life of study or meditation has its own kind of purposefulness -- or it can have. But a life without purpose can hardly be said to be human. To observe that the practice of living purposefully is essential to fully realised self-esteem should not be understood to mean that the measure of an individual's worth is his or her external achievements.
The root of our self-esteem is not our achievements but those internally generated practices that, among other things, make it possible for us to achieve -- all the self-esteem virtues we are discussing here. Steel industrialist Andrew Carnegie once stated, "You can take away our factories, take away our trade, our avenues of transportation and our money -- leave us with nothing but our organisation -- and in four years we could reestablish ourselves.
The same principle applies to the relationship between self-esteem and external achievements. Productive achievement may be an expression of high self-esteem, but it is not its primary cause. Consider a person who is brilliantly talented and successful at work, but is irrational and irresponsible in his or her private life. Such a person may want to believe that the sole criterion of virtue is productive performance and that no other sphere of action has moral or self-esteem significance.
And such a person may hide behind work in order to evade feelings of shame and guilt stemming from other areas of life. Then, productive work becomes not so much a healthy passion as an avoidance strategy, a refuge from realities one feels frightened to face.
In addition, if a person's self-esteem is tied primarily to accomplishments, success or income, the danger is that economic circumstances beyond the individual's control may lead to the failure of the business or the loss of a job, flinging him into depression or acute demoralisation.
On occasion I have counseled older men and women who found themselves unemployed, passed over in favor of people a good deal younger who were in no way better equipped, or even as well equipped, for the particular job. I have also worked with highly talented young people who suffered from a reverse form of the same prejudice, a discrimination against youth in favor of age -- where, again, objective competence and ability were not the standard.
In such circumstances, often those involved suffer a feeling of loss of personal effectiveness. Such a feeling is only a hairline away from a sense of diminished self- esteem-and often turns into it. It takes an unusual kind of person to avoid falling into the trap of this error. It takes a person who is already well centered and who understands that some of the forces operating are beyond personal control and, strictly speaking, and should not have significance for self-esteem.
It is not that they may not suffer or feel anxiety for the future; it is that they do not interpret the problem in terms of personal worth. When a question of self-esteem is involved, the question to ask is: Is this matter within my direct, volitional control? If it isn't, it is irrelevant to self-esteem and should be perceived to be, however painful or even devastating the problem may be on other grounds.
When I think of what living purposefully means in my life, I think first of taking responsibility for generating the actions necessary to achieve my goals. Living purposefully overlaps significantly with self-responsibility. I think of a time when I wanted something I could not afford that represented a significant improvement in my way of living.
A fairly large expenditure of money was involved. For several years I remained uncharacteristically passive about finding a solution. Then one day I had a thought that certainly was not new to me and yet somehow had fresh impact: If I don't do something, nothing is going to change: This jolted me out of my procrastination, of which I had been dimly aware for a long time but had not confronted.
I proceeded to conceive and implement a project that was stimulating, challenging, profoundly satisfying and worthwhile -- and that produced the additional income I needed. In principle, I could have done it several years earlier. Only when I became bored and irritated with my own procrastination; only when I decided, "I commit myself to finding a solution over the next few weeks"; only when I applied what I know about living purposefully to my own situation -- only then did I launch myself into action and toward a solution.
When I told this story in one of my self-esteem groups, I was challenged by someone who said, "That's okay for you. But not everyone is in a position to develop new projects. What are we to do? Here are some stem sentences that my clients find helpful in deepening their understanding of the ideas we've been discussing:. Living purposefully is a fundamental orientation that applies to every aspect of our existence. It means that we live and act by intention.
It is a distinguishing characteristic of those who enjoy a high level of control over their life. As we mature and develop our own values and standards or absorb them from others , the issue of personal integrity assumes increasing importance in our self-assessment.
Integrity is the integration of ideals, convictions, standards, beliefs and behavior. When our behavior is congruent with our professed values, when ideals and practice match, we have integrity:.
When we behave in ways that conflict with our judgment of what is appropriate, we lose face in our own eyes. We respect ourselves less. If the policy becomes habitual, we trust ourselves less or cease to trust ourselves at all.
At the simplest level, personal integrity entails such questions as: Am I honest, reliable, and trustworthy? Do I keep my promises? Am I fair and just in my dealings with others? Integrity means congruence.
Words and behavior match. There are people we know whom we trust and others we do not. If we ask ourselves the reason, we will see that congruence is basic. We trust congruency and are suspicious of incongruence. Studies disclose that many people in organisations do not trust those above them. Lack of congruence. Beautiful mission statements unsupported by practice. The doctrine of respect for the individual disgraced in action. Slogans about customer service on the walls unmatched by the realities of daily business.
Sermons about honesty mocked by cheating. Promises of fairness betrayed by favoritism. In most organisations, however, there are men and woman whom others trust. They keep their word. They honor their commitments. They don't just promise to stick up for their people, they do it. They just don't preach fairness, they practice it. They don't just counsel honesty and integrity, they live it. To understand why lapses of integrity are detrimental to self-esteem, consider what a lapse of integrity entails.
If I act in contradiction to a moral value held by someone else but not by me, I mayor may not be wrong, but I cannot be faulted for having betrayed my convictions. Hypocrisy, by its very nature, is self-invalidating.
It is mind rejecting itself. A default on integrity undermines me and contaminates my sense of self. It damages me as no external rebuke or rejection can damage me. I may give sermons on honesty to my children yet lie to my friends and neighbors; I may become righteous and indignant when people do not keep their commitments to me but disregard my commitments to others; I may preach a concern with quality but indifferently sell my customers shoddy goods; I may outmaneuver a colleague in the office and appropriate her achievements.
And I may evade my hypocrisy, I may produce any number of rationalizations, but the fact remains I launch an assault on my self-respect that no rationalisation will dispel. Only I will know I am a liar; only I will know I deal unethically with people who trust me; only I will know I have no intention of honoring my promise.
The implication is that my judgment is unimportant and that only the judgment ofothers counts. But when it comes to matters of self- esteem, I have more to fear from my own judgment than from anyone else's; In the inner courtroom of my mind, mine is the only judgment that counts.
My ego, the "I" at the center of my consciousness, is the judge from whom there is no escape. I can avoid people who have learned the humiliating truth about me. I cannot avoid myself. I recall a news article I read some years ago about a medical re- searcher of high repute who was discovered to have been faking his data for a long time while piling up grant after grant and honor after honor.
There was no way for self-esteem not to be a casualty of such behavior, even before the fakery was revealed. He knowingly chose to live in a world of unreality, where his achievements and prestige were equally unreal. Long before others knew, he knew. Impostors of this kind, who live for an illusion in someone else's mind, which they hold as more important than their own knowledge of the truth, do not enjoy good self-esteem. Most of the issues of integrity we face are not big issues but small ones, yet the accumulated weight of of choices has an impact on our sense of self.
As I mentioned earlier I conduct weekly ongoing "self-esteem groups" for people who have come together for a specific purpose, to grow in self-efficacy and self-respect. One evening I gave the group this sentence stem: If I bring 5 percent more integrity into my life The ease and speed of people's responses point to the fact that these matters are not very far beneath the surface of awareness, although there is understandable motivation to evade them. People greatly underestimate the self-esteem costs and consequences of hypocrisy and dishonesty.
They imagine that at worst all that is involved is some discomfort. But it is the spirit itself that is contaminated. The essence of guilt, is moral self-reproach. I did wrong when it was possible for me to do otherwise. Guilt always carries the implication of choice and responsibility, whether or not we are consciously aware of it. For this reason, it is imperative that we be clear on what is and is not in our power -- what is and is not a breach of integrity.
Otherwise, we run the risk of accepting guilt inappropriately. For example, suppose someone we love is killed in an accident. Even though we may know the thought is irrational, we may tell ourselves, "Somehow I should have prevented it. The survivor feels, "If only I had done such and such differently, this terrible accident would not have occurred.
The protection of self-esteem requires a clear understanding of the limits of personal responsibility. Where there is no power, there can be no responsibility, and where there is no responsibility, there can be no reasonable self-reproach. Regret, yes; guilt, no. The idea of Original Sin -- of guilt where there is no possibility of innocence, no freedom of choice, no alternatives available -- is anti-self- esteem by its very nature.
The very notion of guilt without volition or responsibility is an assault on reason as well as on morality. Let us think about guilt and how it can be resolved in situations where we are personally responsible. Generally speaking, five steps are needed to restore one's sense of integrity with regard to a particular breach. We must own the fact that it is we who have taken the particular action.
We must face and accept the full reality of what we have done, without disowning or avoidance. We own, we accept, we take responsibility. WordPress Shortcode. Published in: Full Name Comment goes here. Are you sure you want to Yes No. Be the first to like this. No Downloads. Views Total views. Actions Shares.
Embeds 0 No embeds. No notes for slide. Book Details Author: Nathaniel Branden Ph. English ISBN: Publication Date: Description Six Pillars of Self Esteem 4. You just clipped your first slide! Clipping is a handy way to collect important slides you want to go back to later. Now customize the name of a clipboard to store your clips.
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